Service Years and Opportunity Youth Conversation

Service Year NC is working to make a year of paid, full-time service – a “service year” – a common expectation and opportunity for North Carolinians.  

A service year before, during, or after college – or as a way to find your path – gives young people the chance to transform their lives, make an impact in their community, and become the active citizens and leaders that our communities and nation need.  Expanding service years has the power to revitalize towns and cities, and uplift and educate young people from “disconnected” communities.

On March 13, Service Year NC partnered with Movement of Youth to sponsor the “Service Years and Opportunity Youth” reception and conversation.  This event convened participants from nonprofits, various companies, policy makers, and concerned residents to learn more about “service years”, Service Year NC, and Opportunity Youth engagement.

Those in attendance learned more about service year programs and opportunity youth, sometimes referred to as disconnected youth. These youth comprise nearly five million American youth aged 16-24 who are neither in school nor employed.

“Finding ways to help opportunity youth find pathways to employment or further education and training can help the country fill workforce gaps.” said Darryl Lester, Service Year NC Director. Lester added, “doing so through service year experiences offer the added benefits of developing purposeful, engaged citizens, willing to volunteer to solve community problems long after service year ends.”

Highlights of the event included, hearing from organizations that host service years, as well as hearing the stories of young people who have completed a year of service. The event was also a time to bring together a diverse group to share their perspectives and exchange ideas.

The NC Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service and the Corporation for National and Community Service – Raleigh office; pillars in the service year sector, both played a significant role in making this event a huge success.

Caroline Farmer, Executive Director, North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service


Service Year NC (SYNC) seeks to provide more on-ramps to service by reframing the “service – giving” narrative to include young people from inside as well as outside communities,”

Lester added, “Service Year NC believes “service years” are important because they are the beginning of one’s journey to understanding the importance and value of giving back, serving, and volunteering.”

Lester and SYNC also believes these tenets of service are also pathways to greater civic engagement and change.

Service Year NC continues to map out its strategic direction to embrace the opportunity to encourage and promote service in an inclusive, transparent and culturally competent way.

In opening up the “Service Year highway” to promote and encourage more people to enter the road, it is important to understand how service is viewed and applied in a variety of cities, communities, and neighborhoods. Lester commented during the event.

SYNC also recognizes and embraces the opportunity to demystify service and the various ways (Americorps/VISTAS) engage in service.  “It is important that we unpack the racial and socioeconomic barriers to participating in institutional and organized service.” Lester concluded.

.To learn more about the Service Year NC initiative, click here


This post was originally published in Institute for Emerging Issues.